Tina Brown announced today that Newsweek will be ending its print editions next year, with the December 31 2012 issue being the last U.S. print offering. It seems like obviously the right move. Any journalistic enterprise is both a product of the good journalistic skills of its staff and also of the technological possibilities of its time.
In the era of print newspapers and nightly TV news, newsweeklies provided the extremely valuable function of timely up-to-date coverage of news and culture that didn’t rely on you literally checking the same news source every single day. The Internet in some ways exacerbates the dysfunctionalities of the daily news cycle by promoting relentless over-hyping of everything that occurs, but Google makes it trivially simple to just find a news story from Monday if you’re interest in reading about it on Thursday. There’s no need for a digest format and if you do great original reporting you want to publish that reporting as soon as possible not sit on it for two days to wait for a magazine distribution process.
At any rate, that’s all obvious. As I mentioned yesterday, my mother worked at Newsweek when I was a kid. I seem to remember an old photo of myself as a tiny kid sitting in the old Newsweek office pretending to use a typewriter.She was very much on the tactile old print side of things and had all kinds of t-squares and x-acto knives and fancy glue and the other tools of the trade of analog page design. Obviously that whole way of doing business went out before the end of the print magazine, but looking back the same technological wave that led Quark X-Press and Adobe Photoshop to displace razor blades and rubber cement eventually rendered the whole thing obsolete. So these trends have obviously been a long time coming.